Two prominent progressives are squabbling over how to respond to calls to impeach President Donald Trump, a display of the larger rift between two factions within the Democratic Party: those calling for Trump's immediate removal from office and those warning of harsh political consequences for Democrats if they attempt to do so.
"Dems should NOT commit to impeachment unless & until there's a demonstrable case for one. It is not just a matter of politics," David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama and current CNN contributor, tweeted on Sunday. "It's a matter of principle. If we 'normaiize' (sic) impeachment as a political tool, it will be another hammer blow to our democracy."
Tom Steyer, a Democratic mega-donor famous for his $20 million ad campaign calling for Trump's impeachment, responded: "Let's be clear: Trump has already committed 8 impeachable offenses. What are we waiting for?"
The exchange between the two liberal power players is part of a larger push-and-pull about impeachment among Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The possibility of electing enough Democrats to Congress to remove Trump is also likely to be a central theme of the 2018 midterm race as progressives look to get out the vote.
But even if Democrats were to retake the House and vote to impeach the President, it's highly unlikely they would be able to find the 67 votes necessary in the Senate to remove the President from office.
A small pocket of House Democrats moved to impeach Trump late last year, but their proposal was tabled in December in the Republican-controlled chamber. Since the move was halted, the number of Democratic lawmakers backing a plan toward impeachment also grew from 58 in December to 66 in January, but the effort is not supported by Democratic leadership.
Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, as well as Maine Independent Sen. Angus King and Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, have signaled an openness to impeachment under the right circumstances. No serious effort is underway in the Senate, however, where Republicans control a 51-49 majority.